NHL Eastern Conference

Sat, 28 Feb 2009 22:24

NHL Eastern Conference

Information about National Hockey League Eastern Conference.

Home to a number of America's mightiest teams in American hockey history is the NHL Eastern Conference. Also home to a number of Stanley Cup champions such as the Montreal Canadiens, the New York Islanders, the Pittsburgh Penguins, the New York Rangers, the New Jersey Devils, the Tampa Bay Lightning, the Carolina Hurricanes, and the Buffalo Sabres, the Eastern Conference is just one of the National Hockey League's (NHL) two conferences. The other one is the Western Conference.

Formerly known as the Prince of Wales or Wales Conference, the Eastern Conference was formed in 1974 following NHL's move to re-categorize its teams into four divisions and two conferences. The resulting conferences were the Prince of Wales Conference and the Clarence Campbell Conference. The Wales Conference was divided into two divisions, the Patrick Division and the Adams Division.

Having little to do with the geography of North America, the Wales conference was named in reference to the Prince of Wales Trophy, which dates back to 1924. It was donated by the then Prince of Wales, better known as the Duke of Windsor, to the National Hockey League.

In years when there were no NHL divisions, the Prince of Wales Trophy was given to the league’s champion for the season. It was presented to the American Division season champions from 1928 to 1937, but from 1967 to 1974, it went to the champions of the East Division. Today, the Prince of Wales Trophy goes to the Eastern Conference season champions. The Stanley Cup remains as the official Cup of the National Hockey League, the main professional hockey league in Canada and the United States.

Another re-alignment

The NHL teams were again re-aligned to better represent the teams’ geographical locations, though the conference and division names were retained. The Wales Conference, then, became composed of the NHL teams of Eastern North America.

It was only in 1993 that, through NHL commissioner Gary Bettman’s initiative, the conference and division names were changed to refer to the teams’ geographical locations. It was done to help people better understand hockey, and to follow the lead of other professional sports leagues in America (such as the National Basketball Association and the National Football League), whose conferences and divisions were geography-based. This move was met by resistance from the older and the purist hockey fans, who felt that the change was against almost 20 years of hockey tradition, and that it erased traces of the league’s history and heritage. However, the NHL management prevailed.

When the Wales Conference became the Eastern Conference, it became composed of three divisions and 15 teams. The Atlantic Division is home to the New Jersey Devils, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Philadelphia Flyers, and Pittsburgh Penguins. The Northeast Division, on the other hand, is composed of the Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and Toronto Maple Leafs. While the Southeast Division, formed only in 1998, houses the Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning, and Washington Capitals.

Each season, the Eastern Conference champion competes with the Western Conference champion in the Stanley Cup finals.